The Maersk Discoverer – Q&A with Ben Pomford, Head of Drilling Solutions
Ben Pomford, Head of Drilling Solutions at Maersk Drilling, spoke to Energy Egypt about the Maersk Discoverer’s operations in Egyptian waters.
Q: The Maersk Discoverer is a semi-submersible, deep water, dynamically positioned, dual activity rig. How does this differentiate it from other types of offshore rigs?
A: There are three common styles of offshore drilling rigs; jack-up rigs designed for operating in shallow water, and drillships and semi-submersibles designed for operations at up to 3,500 meters of water depth. Drillships and semi-submersibles float, remaining on station either by using mooring lines anchored to the seabed or by dynamic positioning utilising thrusters. Some rigs, such as the Maersk Discoverer, have two work centres on the drill floor enabling the rig to perform more efficiently by executing simultaneous operations.
Q: The Maersk Discoverer has operated in Egyptian waters since 2012. What drilling activities has it engaged in up to this point?
A: The Maersk Discoverer has drilled wells in the Salamat, GEB, Atoll, Taurus, Libra, Giza, Fayoum and Raven fields. Multiple wells have been drilled in some of these fields.
Q: What has been the highlight of the Maersk Discoverer’s Egyptian operations so far?
A: In October 2017, the Maersk Discoverer completed the Giza Fayoum well by drilling in just 285 meters of water. The well was the shallowest water drilling operation in dynamic positioning mode ever conducted for both Maersk Drilling and British Petroleum (BP), and the use of dynamic positioning delivered significant cost savings for our customer because it removed the need for a mooring spread. In addition, the well was completed five days ahead of schedule.
Q: The Maersk Discoverer has around 110 Maersk-employed crew members on board. How many of these are Egyptian nationals and what job roles do they have on the rig?
A: Egyptian nationals hold approximately 60% of the positions working for Maersk Drilling on the Discoverer, and the percentage of nationals increases every year as the crew builds experience. Egyptian nationals hold positions such as crane operators, deck handling crews, mechanics and electricians, drill floor operatives, welders and catering staff.
Q: During the period the Maersk Discoverer has been in Egyptian waters, how have local employees been able to develop their careers?
A: There are numerous examples of crew development in many positions on the rig. Positions that were previously held by expats and now are held by local nationals include crane operators, drilling fluid operators, mechanics and electricians. Three locals, directly involved in drilling operations, now hold the position of assistant driller.
Q: How did you ensure the development of the local crew?
A: The Maersk Discoverer is one of few 6G rigs to have operated offshore Egypt, so naturally the local crew were not familiar with the equipment onboard during the early phases of operations. Therefore we decided to develop our talents in-house, and our supervisors have focused on coaching and supporting the crew to achieve the desired competency levels that match the safety and performance standards of Maersk Drilling.
In addition, we have created trainee positions and defined development plans for talented personnel, tailored to their specific needs.
Q: How has the Maersk Discoverer’s period in Egypt benefited the local economy?
A: During its period in Egypt the Maersk Discoverer has worked exclusively for BP, mainly drilling gas producing wells, and often in very challenging conditions. This gas is for local domestic consumption. Similarly a large number of local people working on the rig and in support of the rig benefit from the employment and career development the rig creates.
Q: How safe is it to work offshore on the Maersk Discoverer?
A: The single most important aspect of working on the rig is to do the work safely with no harm to personnel. To meet this goal all work is controlled. Before each job is undertaken the hazards associated with the job are assessed to eliminate the possibility of anybody coming to any harm. Even a small incident, like a scratch on a finger, will be analysed to determine how it can be eliminated in the future. Performance and safety go hand in hand.
Q: What steps have you taken to specifically ensure safety onboard the rig?
A: The Maersk Discoverer started operating in Egypt with new crew members who were not familiar with the rig setup and the working procedures. So the main challenge was to understand the different cultures onboard and work with them to create the Maersk Drilling culture onboard, driven by our 5 main values: Constant Care, Uprightness, Humbleness, Our Employees, and Our Name. The safety culture of Maersk Drilling is of a higher standard, and by constant supervision and working with the crew to develop their understanding of safety, we have reached a point where the crew themselves have the ownership of working safely.
Q: How is this safety culture expressed in daily operations?
A: An important safety feature is the empowerment to stop the job. All crew members have the right and obligation to stop the job if at any time they observe an unsafe act or unsafe condition. This approach is embedded into our culture onboard. We have a robust safety management system with a set of specific working procedures relevant to our daily tasks. These procedures are designed to achieve high performance without compromising the safety of our crew.
Q: How are you able to control the environmental impact during daily operations?
A: When operating in a beautiful country such as Egypt, it is our obligation and commitment to ensure that we have no environmental impact during our operations. This is also embedded in our company policy.
We have a spill prevention program and a zero discharge policy and we have the equipment and tools required to contain all environmentally sensitive chemicals onboard. In addition, our rigid maintenance system ensures that our equipment is maintained in relation to any environmental impact.